Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time
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Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time

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Genres in Hollywood tend to experience cycles falling in and out of favor and popularity on a regular basis. During the golden age of the epic movie the action film reigns supreme. While that general type of film seems to always find favor with audiences there is a sub set that is apparently on the ascent in marquee visibility; the ‘sword and sandals epic. There is just something extremely appealing about the era of Greek or Roman soldiers clad in helmet, shield and sword charging into a fierce battle that make for satisfying entertainment, the fact that the warriors are dressed in short skirts and sandals only seems to add considerably to the general appeal. For the guys in the audience there is ample opportunity for every element required for a testosterone driven movie with sword fights chases and general mayhem. Meanwhile the women can get into the elaborate costumes and hair styles the actresses sport not to mention the fact that the female characters are frequently far more dangerous than the men. Now that most action films have incredibly huge budget, special effects and frequent display a computer generated cast of thousands some of the edge has dulled to this type of movie. it’s just not the same watching a computer generated horde storming a desert strong hold as it was back in the day when a producer could hire a couple of thousand extras, dress them in period outfits and weapons and turn them loose on a practical set. A human touch is lacking no matter how experienced the programmers are at emulating realism. This frequently subtle difference between virtual and practical approach to film making is what is at the core of what prevented ‘Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time’ from reaching its potential. As far as sword and sandal flicks goes it had enough of a story to drive the action and a suitable athletic cast to pull off the stunt work but like so many action movies of this time just lacks the humanity , the warmth to allow it to succeed completely. One thing working in favor of this flick was that it comes from the Disney Studio and they do have more experience than anyone else when it comes to light, family friendly entertainment.

The story was handled by several authors but the three garnering the primary credit have suitable backgrounds. Boaz Yakin worked on projects that couldn’t be further apart on the entertainment spectrum; ‘Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights’ and ‘From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money’ while Doug Miro and Carlo Bernard both collaborated on the horror-thriller ‘The Uninvited’ and both will continue in the Disney family with ‘The Sorcerer's Apprentice’. It should be kept in mind that a movie like this doesn’t need to have a story that is all that deep. All the script does is for providing a scaffold to give some meager excuse for the action. Typically it involves a ruggedly handsome young man, a beautiful young woman and some sort of quest that not only saves their culture but proves the guy worthy of the lady’s affections. The story here is directly out of this playbook and basically the cliff notes version of the ‘Hero’s Journey as detailed in a more scholastic slant by Joseph Campbell. Many people under rated this film possibly but not appreciating the history of this sub-genre. People do not come to a sword and sandal flick for an intriguing story or historical perspective. The audience is typically full of people ready to watch thrilling fights to the death with the slight touch of romance.

The foundation of this tale is admittedly is a classic. Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal) was an orphan adopted into the King of Persia’s household. This did not sit well with his foster brothers; Tus (Richard Coyle) and Garsiv (Toby Kebbell). If this sounds familiar just relocate the setting to Egypt and change the lead to Moses and the basic plot falls somewhat into place only there is less divine intervention and more combat in this version of the story. The brothers plot with their evil uncle Nizam (Ben Kingsley) city of Alamut which is of great religious significance nut they have been selling arms to the enemies of the state. This does attempt to insert a little topical plot device into the mix. Dastan leads a stealthy incursion making off with a very special dagger that is later revealed to be the magical Dagger of Time containing the sands of time. When used in conjunction with a magic hourglass allows the user to travel back in time. The King is murdered and Distan is framed for the crime and now has to clear his name, save the princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton) and uncover the power play instituted by his foster brothers.

While admittedly routine a spark of life is infused in the movie by its director; Mike Newell. Listed on his resume are movies encompassing a broad range from ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’ to ‘Mona Lisa Smile’, ‘Pushing Tin’ and ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’. He adds sufficient gravitas to the production to take it seriously even if it is a Saturday afternoon popcorn flick. The magic artifacts are well handled as a type of plot coupon; collected to redeem for a conclusion. It appears that some of the cast, most notably Gyllenhaal and Kingsley took a little time off from serious films just to keep their hand in a project with more of a youthful appeal. The bottom line is this movie is enjoyable and worth spending some family time viewing.

Posted 08/13/2010

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